Napoleon has been described as the last of the “enlightened despots,” or as a “child of the enlightenment. ” These statements can be considered accurate because Napoleon Bonaparte reconstructed France during the French Revolution. Even though he became a military dictator, before that he was able to equalize rights, create a new banking system, and build up the government, education system, and churches.
After Napoleon seized power in 1799, he started to win over the French citizens and became to improve the country immediately.He created a new constitution consolidating his position and was approved by the French voters with an overwhelming number for the constitution. The essence of Napoleon’s domestic policy was to use his great and highly personal powers to maintain order and end civil strife. He did so by working with verbal agreements with powerful groups, the agreement was the groups received favors in return for loyal service.His bargain with the middle class codified the Civil Code of 1804, which reasserted the two fundamental principles of the liberal and moderate revolution: equality of all male citizens before the law and absolute security of wealth and private property. He was able to get the bankers of Paris to establish the privately owned Bank of France, which loyally served the interests of both the state and the financial oligarchy.
Napoleon’s defense of the new economic order also appealed to the peasants, who had gained both land and status from the changes.Another one of his projects during his reign which was successful like the creation of the Bank of France and the equalization of rights to man was the church reforms. He completely regarded the church as a convenience to be taken advantage of by any enlightened despot. When he first came to power, the greatest force that could propel counterrevolution was the Catholic Church, so ignoring the infuriated Jacobeans; he signed a concordat with the Vatican. Through the concordat, the Catholic Church was able to gain back authority that it had lost during the revolution, however, it was never allowed to recover its former autonomy or power.Napoleon kept the French church in his pocket.
He paid the clergy directly, and he made them financially dependent on his treasury. As a child of the enlightenment, Napoleon used cold authority and calculation to wield one of the most powerful weapons in the world, religion, and he did it successfully. He also used his authority to work on the educational system and reform the government. Napoleon centralized the government, putting control firmly in the hands of the national government. It became more efficient.Advancement in the civil service and the military was based on merit rather than rank.
The tax system was applied equally to all. When it came to education reforms, Napoleon built many new lycees, which are schools for boys age 10 to 16. He recognized the importance of education in producing citizens capable of filling positions in his bureaucracy and military. Although he did not create a system of mass education, education was more available to the middle class than it ever had been before. He saw education as a way of indoctrinating "right-thinking" citizens from an early.
It is hard to reconcile whether it was Napoleon’s political genius that made him enlightened or whether it was his enlightenment that made him a political genius. Regardless, he will always be recognized as a charismatic and remarkable enlightened despot. Yes, Napoleon was a child of the enlightenment; this is clearly displayed by his policies and law codification that directly impacted the majority. Napoleons enlightened social reforms were often directly impacted by his religious agreements and political endeavors.Works Citedhttp://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/france/napfra.htmhttp://www.napoleon-series.org/research/society/c_education.html